Spring Break: Tech Trek West Edition

Hello Tech Trekkers! First off, a sincere thank you to Professor Kane, Jere, and Kelsey for all of the hard work, coordination, and time that went into making Tech Trek West such an unforgettable experience. I also want to extend many thanks to our fantastic TA Matt and to all of my amazing classmates!

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Revisiting my Expectations…

To be honest, I didn’t expect Tech Trek to have as much of an impact on me as it has. Going into the class, I knew I was genuinely interested in tech, wanted to learn more, and was excited to study the business strategies of tech companies that I had learned about in Computers in Management. After going on Tech Trek, I realized that it’s one thing to read about tech news, but another to experience it. It was the trek itself that really brought the course material to life.

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Angus and Ouster’s LiDAR sensor

I got so much more out of Tech Trek than I anticipated because of all of the preparation and research that went into the course. Early in the semester, just the thought of asking questions to top CEOs and tech leaders made me nervous. By learning about each company, keeping up with tech news, and developing insightful questions, I grew more and more confident. My nerves dissipated upon realizing how prepared I was to talk about the companies we studied as well as hot topics including blockchain, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and autonomous vehicles.

What made the trip amazing?

For starters, it was incredible to be in the heart of Silicon Valley and gain exposure to the innovation surrounding us in San Francisco and Palo Alto. Before Tech Trek, I had never actually stepped foot on the West Coast. The idea of Silicon Valley was sort of an enigma to me–how a single region managed to produce so many billionaires, unicorns, and cutting-edge ideas was beyond my understanding. All I knew was that whatever was in the West Coast Kool-Aid was special, and that there’s nothing quite like it on the East Coast.

Our trek West helped demystify the aura of Silicon Valley for me. I witnessed that behind the scenes of tech giants (Google, Facebook, Apple, etc.) and rising startups is an incredibly talented pool of passionate and hardworking individuals. Without them, these companies would not and could not exist. The BC alum and professionals we met with have an insatiable curiosity about the world, pour their hearts into their work each day, and aim to solve hard problems to improve our lives. To name a few– Angus from Ouster, Jesse from Coinlist, Trevor from Split, the WePay crew, the Madison Reed family, and the Veem team each reflect why and how Silicon Valley has evolved into the powerful force that it is today.

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The opportunities to engage with so many incredible BC alum and industry professionals made the experience so worthwhile. On the night we shared dinner with CJ and Jesse, I honestly couldn’t believe that I was in Silicon Valley having conversations about blockchain and venture capital with two of the most accomplished entrepreneurs out there. It was encouraging to see how the CEOs and tech leaders we met with genuinely wanted to chat with us, answer our questions, and share advice about what they’ve learned along their journeys.

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You’re never too old for Google’s ball pit…

I’ve mentioned how the trip was amazing thanks to those we met along the way, but I cannot forget our very own Tech Trek class. I came into this trip not really knowing anybody well, but I’ve left with an amazing group of friends and mentors. Our group fostered an inclusive and fun environment in which geeking out over tech is accepted–and even encouraged. Each of you truly made Tech Trek West an incredibly fun and unforgettable experience!

Tech Trekked… now what?

Before going on Tech Trek, I wasn’t fully convinced that I wanted to pursue a concentration in Information Systems. I didn’t really know or understand how it could help me in my career. I knew that I didn’t see myself in software development, and I even thought about dropping Information Systems for a major that more people might understand.

Over the course of the semester, I realized that I didn’t want to stop learning about tech in the classroom. I loved reading and talking about tech and was excited about the case studies and company presentations. This influenced my decision to continue to pursue an Information Systems concentration (even if it does require an explanation to most of my non-technical friends and family members). After Tech Trek, I’ve realized that there are many business-oriented opportunities in tech for which an Information Systems concentration is extremely useful. A deeper understanding of technical concepts is beneficial in any role, especially in the rapidly evolving financial services industry (just ask WePay).

A Shift in Perspective

The way TechTrek has challenged me to think differently about the working world has made this experience so valuable. I’ve lived and worked in the Boston area my whole life, so within our first few company visits, I noticed an apparent shift in culture and workplace dynamic. The more relaxed pace, atypical workdays, casual work attire, and collaborative workspaces (many of which welcomed pets and were stocked with snacks) fostered an environment unlike any I’ve ever worked in. It even felt odd returning to BC to be greeted by professors dawning blazers and ties–much too “over-dressed” by West Coast standards.

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A trip down Hacker Way to Facebook’s HQ

My experiences on Tech Trek have also allowed me to view my career path through a much different lens. I’ve long envisioned myself in a traditional business role in banking or financial services. While I’m not abandoning my career aspirations in business, I can say that I’m much more open to and aware of alternative career paths that merge my interests in both business and tech.

Closing Thoughts (one more time…)

While some of us are left feeling uncertain and confused about our post-Tech Trek futures, remember that there’s still time to figure out what we really want to do in life. There’s this constant pressure to say and do the right things, but life doesn’t always work out how you expect it to. I think Davis Fields at Facebook captured it best when he said, “It’s perfectly okay to fail, but fail fast.” Davis advised us to “go all in and learn from failure instead of fearing it.” Though this can be challenging and uncomfortable, pushing the boundaries of our comfort zones is what allows us to truly grow.

As I’m left grappling over careers in banking and tech, a future of predictability or uncertainty, and contemplating a happy medium between the two extremes of East Coast and West Coast life, I remind myself that my next choice isn’t my last, but instead a new beginning…

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Apple Park visit and the “infinite” path of olive trees

5 thoughts on “Spring Break: Tech Trek West Edition

  1. Amy, I love how you said “next choice isn’t my last, but instead a new beginning”. TechTrek has definitely helped me to change perspective on many things too, like where to live, career, company, etc. That’s what I liked about Silicon Valley–the flexible path for one to do all kinds of crazy things!

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  2. Amy, I was thoroughly impressed by your ability to ask those heavy-hitting questions this whole semester, class and trip. It was awesome having another class with you and it’s even better that it was TechTrek. I like how you mentioned that TechTrek has challenged you to think differently about the working world because I believe that this is the fundamental quality of Silicon Valley. The ability to think outside the box and be open to new perspectives is so invaluable, so I can see you succeed wherever you go. I cannot agree more with you on how mind-blowingly unique this opportunity was, but considering the star power that we have in this class, I feel like our opportunities will only get better.

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    • Thank you so much for the kind words Max! It was so fun having another class with you, and I’m glad we got to spend time exploring San Francisco and Palo Alto together. I definitely agree that it’s important to bring new ideas to the table and be open to new perspectives. You brought so many great insights and perspectives to class and to SV. I’m excited for what the future holds!

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  3. Amy – I love your last line! Keeping this in mind will hopefully ease any anxiety about choosing a career path or changing your mind on things later on in life. A shift in perspective is definitely needed to understand how life works out in Silicon Valley, let alone immerse yourself in the incredible tech environment – you’re spot on with that. Welcome back!

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  4. Amy!! I have chills from reading your post. I agree with Matt, I LOVE the last line! As a “rising” senior, I definitely felt a moment of panic that I would have to rethink my career path, etc. too. However, I learned to recognize that this experience taught me the options and exemplified the various ways I can get into tech.
    We heard a lot of advice while in SF and no one ever regretted an experience they had or the time they spent doing it, rather everyone shared how much they valued that experience (regardless of how “different” it is from their current career) because it got them to where they are today. I am so grateful for the opportunity to go on TechTrek and the incredible things I learned from it.

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